What To Do When You Can’t Fix Your Friend or Her Life

Don’t you hate it when your friend comes to you with a prayer request you can’t answer?

I know, the very fact that it’s a prayer request means that it’s supposed to be a need that only God can answer. But I confess, I like to answer them too. (Sometimes I even try to claim solutions that weren’t my idea. Like when the friend says, “I wonder if I tried…” and I say, “You know what, you should try…!”)

I like to suggest the answer that works.

Especially, I like to be the answer. (It’s far more heroic to be the answer than merely to suggest the answer.)

Sometimes, if I can’t suggest the answer or be the answer, and especially if I can’t even see the answer, I tend to lose interest in the need.

I guess I just like to fix it.

Here’s how I like it to work: Friend comes to me with a burden. “Ah, yes! I’d be glad to help.” Then I roll up my sleeves and give lots of heart-felt advice. My advice works, and we go merrily on our ways.

But here’s the problem: sometimes I can’t fix it. Occasionally (well, often) the need is deeper than my wealth of wisdom can touch. At times (okay, usually) the circumstances are beyond my power to change.

So does help for my friend end there? Am I no longer part of the solution? If I can’t fix it am I through?

Actually, that’s where one of the kindest gifts we can give comes in. Prayer? Yes, but I’m assuming you’re already doing that. Beyond prayer, we can give the gift of sympathy.

To shed it of flair, pity.

Sympathetic pity.

I’m not talking about the pity that encourages the nursing of old wounds and the picking of healing scars. I’m referring to the sympathy that by virtue of its extension gives courage for the future. It’s the way I can say to a friend, “Your hurt is in my heart, and I’m standing with you to overcome it.”

What? You think it is selfish to want sympathy? At some times and in some ways, yes. But Jesus, who was never selfish, wanted sympathy as He was on the Cross.

Reproach hath broken my heart; and I am full of heaviness: and I looked for some to take pity, but there was none; and for comforters, but I found none.Psalm 69:20

It’s selfish to wallow in self-pity. But it’s godly to give sympathy.

And I, for one, am thankful for godly friends who have given prayer-based sympathy to unfixable needs.

Who is needing this gift from you?